According to a recent article in The Hindu, India’s planned Cartosat-3 Earth observation (EO) satellite will offer .25-meter resolution, the world’s highest commercial capability.
In “Notes on Demands for Grants, 2013-2014” from India’s Department of Space, which forms part of budget documents recently presented to Parliament, Cartosat-3 figures as a separate item. “Cartosat-3 is an advanced remote sensing satellite with enhanced resolution of 0.25 [meters] for cartographic applications and high-resolution mapping,” stated the document.
U.S. firm DigitalGlobe plans to launch WorldView-3 next year, which will supply images with a resolution of 0.31 meters. Cartosat-3’s camera would better that performance. In the words of one expert, the satellite's images could allow a scooter to be distinguished from a car.
In 1988, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched India’s first operational remote sensing satellite, IRS-1A. The best resolution its cameras could provide was about 36 meters. Seven years later, IRS-1C offered panchromatic 5.8-meter resolution, supplying the highest-resolution images available from a civilian satellite until Space Imaging launched Ikonos in 1999, the first commercial satellite with submeter capabilities.
Image courtesy of ISRO.